What are the benefits of adult education

4th World Report on Adult Education published

Too few adults worldwide have access to education. The opportunities to take part in educational programs are unevenly distributed: The barriers to educational opportunities are particularly high for women, people with disabilities, people from rural areas and refugees. This is the conclusion of the 4th UNESCO World Report on Adult Education, which is now available in German. Using data from 159 countries, the report examines the extent to which UNESCO member states put their obligations in the field of adult education into practice.

Inconsistent progress increases inequality

The 4th World Report on Adult Education shows that since 2015 two thirds of the countries surveyed have made substantial progress in adult learning and education. For example, 75 percent of the countries saw large improvements in quality.

However, progress is inadequate and inconsistent: in almost a third of all countries examined, fewer than five percent of adults over the age of 15 participate in educational programs. The share of public spending on adult education has risen in just 28 percent of countries, while 41 percent of states reported stagnant spending and 17 percent reported a reduction in spending.

Recommendations for a successful path into the future

In order to give more adults access to high-quality education and to achieve the goals of the Education 2030 Agenda, the UNESCO report formulates recommendations:

  1. Development of a new understanding of adult education taking into account the three areas of basic education, continuing vocational training and socio-political education;
  2. Developing policies to increase equitable participation in adult education;
  3. Increasing investment by governments, employers and other stakeholders;
  4. Recognizing and communicating the social and economic benefits of adult education;
  5. Expansion of data collection for adult education.


The Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE) appears every three years and is used to monitor global developments in adult education. It is created by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) in Hamburg. The 4th World Report on Adult Education was first published in English in December 2019. Using data from 159 countries, he analyzes equity and inclusion in adult education.